2021-11-07| Funding

Parthenon Therapeutics Launches with $65 Million Series A to Advance Immuno-Oncology Treatment

by Judy Ya-Hsuan Lin
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At least 50% of tumors are refractory, and they can barely be defeated by cancer therapies due to physical barriers that repel immune attacks. This challenge leads to several pharmaceutical companies reprogramming the tumor microenvironment to attack the barrier.

Parthenon Therapeutics is a company that creates a novel class of anti-cancer therapies to reprogram the tumor microenvironment. On November 3rd, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech raised $65 million in Series A funding to fund its oncology programs.

Investors include Section 32, Breakout Ventures, funds managed by Tekla Capital Management LLC, Creacion Ventures, KdT Ventures, Park West Asset Management LLC, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

“Parthenon was established with the goal of developing first-in-class therapeutics that have the highest potential for improving the survival of the greatest number of people living with cancer,” said Laurent Audoly, Ph.D., Co-Founder, and CEO of Parthenon Therapeutics.

“We’re focused on reprogramming the tumor microenvironment to attack the protective barrier that half of all human cancers build to repel immune attack, a novel approach, we believe, with the potential to create an entirely new class of anti-cancer therapies.”

Related Article: Bispecific Antibodies or CAR T-Cells: Which One of These Cancer Immunotherapies Would Prevail?


Rationales Behind Reprogramming Microenvironment

A recent publication in Nature demonstrates the promising evidence of the role of discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1), a multi-domain collagen receptor, in stabilizing the tumor extracellular matrix (ECM).

The research was conducted at the laboratories of Dr. Rong Li, Ross Professor of Basic Science Research in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at George Washington University, and Dr. Zhiqiang An, Professor of Molecular Medicine and recipient of the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at the University of Texas Health. This research supports Parthenon’s program, PRTH-101, as a potential future therapy for a broad range of cancers.

Neutralizing DDR1 interferes with the physical barriers of the tumors by perforation and facilitates the entry of immune cells to destroy tumor cells. This approach has shown its effectiveness in multiple preclinical models of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), as DDR1 is expressed in several human tumors such as TNBC and is inversely proportional to the intratumoral abundance of anti-tumor T cells.

“Our current understanding suggests different barriers underpin immune-cell exclusion: mechanical barriers such as stromal fibrosis and vascular access, functional barriers provided by soluble and metabolic factors, and dynamic barriers that impact immune cell function,” said C. Glenn Begley, M.D., Ph.D., Parthenon’s Co-Founder and Head of Drug Discovery.

Related Article: Anti-cancer Agent Derived From Himalayan Caterpillar Fungus Shines in Early Trials

“Most recent advances in immuno-oncology and cell therapy have been in the dynamic barrier category. The results published today in Nature explore the potential of attacking specific pillars of these barriers, opening major new opportunities to treat cancer. Targeting DDR1 is one outcome of this methodical approach.”

“We believe that our unique insights into the tumor stroma and microenvironment reveal multiple unprecedented points of therapeutic intervention to attack tumors and address therapeutic needs in a range of cancers,” said Guy Travis Clifton, M.D., Co-Founder, and CMO, Parthenon Therapeutics.

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